CCR №5 (138) 2020
Local communities as a tool for the development of municipal democracy: German experience and lessons for Russia

The full text of the article is available only in Russian.

Abstract

Local government as a political, legal and social institution finds itself in a very difficult period of development in Russia. The long-established tendency of its subordination to the state has intensified today in connection with the newly adopted constitutional amendments. At the same time, it seems obvious that further “embedding” of local government into the state management vertical, in the absence of any positive effect in terms of solving socio-economic and infrastructural problems, will inevitably lead to other hard to reverse, negative results both for local government institutions and the system of public authority as a whole. The normal functioning of local government requires, however, not only the presence of its sufficient institutional and functional autonomy from the state, but also an adequate territorial and social base for its implementation. To ensure the formation of viable territorial collectives, especially in urban areas, it seems appropriate to promote the development of self-government based on local groups at the intra-municipal level. Such local groups can independently manage issues of local importance on a small scale (landscaping, social volunteering, and neighborly mutual assistance), and provide, within the boundaries of a local territory, due civil control over the maintenance by municipal authorities of more complex and large-scale local issues (repair and development of infrastructure, removal of solid household waste and more). At the same time, the development of local communities can by no means be a self-sufficient and substitutional mechanism, whose introduction would end the need for democracy in the full scope of municipal structures overall. In this regard, the experience of local communities’ development in Germany, a state with legal traditions similar to Russian ones, with a centuries-old history of the development of territorial communities and a difficult path to building democracy and forming civil society, seems to be very interesting. Here, the progressive development of local forms of democracy and the participation of residents in local issue management are combined with stable mechanisms of municipal government, and the interaction of municipalities with the state does not torpedo the existing citizen forms of self-government. At the same time, the experience of Germany shows that the decentralization of public issue management which involves the local population can only be effective in a situation where, in addition to maintaining a full-fledged self-government mechanism at the general municipal level, relevant local communities are endowed with real competence and resources to influence local issue decision-making. The role of formalized local communities in urban areas, as the German experience shows, can not only facilitate the decentralization of solving public problems, but can also help in timely elimination of triggers for mobilizing citywide supercollectives with negative agendas. This experience seems useful and applicable in the Russian context.

About the authors:
Alexander Larichev — Doctor of Sciences in Law, Deputy Dean for Research, Professor of the Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Emil Markwart — Doctor of Sciences in Economics, Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Professor of the Department for Spatial Development, Institute for Social Sciences, Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia

Citation: Larichev A., Markwart E. (2020) Lokal’nye soobshchestva kak instrument razvitiya obshchemunitsipal’noy demokratii: opyt Germanii i uroki dlya Rossii [Local Communities as a Tool for the Development of Municipal Democracy: German Experience and Lessons for Russia]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.5, pp.74–88.

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